Master's Program

The Department of Computer Science boasts twelve different research groups with cutting-edge facilties and technology. The diverse research interests of our faculty attracts graduate students and researchers from all over the globe. Our research groups produce world-renowned papers and advancements, and contribute to the ever growing exploration of computers and technology. Graduate students also have the opportunity to collaborate with relevant industry partners. The Department of Computer Science has a strong graduate program and is one of the highest recruiting research groups on campus. We typically have ~150 graduate students enrolled in both M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs.

The following summarizes the requirements as outlined in the Graduate Calendar, for a fully qualified M.Sc. candidate's program of study. The program usually consists of: four half-year classes amounting to 12 credit units, at the graduate level, from the field in which the student is working; a thesis permitting the student to make some contribution to knowledge; and seminars, colloquia and related activities as the student's department may require. These regulations are interpreted as follows for Computer Science:

1. Completion of at minimum four courses numbered between 810 to 879, or numbered 898, as determined by the advisory committee.
2. The student must fulfill a residency requirement of at least 8 months. Residency is defined as living in, or near Saskatoon, regular attendance on campus, regular interaction with the student's supervisor, and participation in the affairs of the student's research lab and/or of the department.
3. Students must regularly attend the CMPT 990 seminar series during the period of their residency.
4. Completion of an M.Sc. thesis, designated as CMPT 994, that makes a practical or theoretical contribution to Computer Science.
5. Completion of the GSR 960 ethics course.

In submitting a suggested program of studies to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Department attempts to match its recommendations to the needs and background of the individual student. In some cases a higher concentration of classes in a particular area of specialization is needed. In other cases, additional classes beyond the minimal five half-classes may be required. Classes other than "CMPT" classes may be permitted.

In most cases, the recommended program attempts to achieve breadth of coverage of Computer Science by including at least one half-class from each of three of the nine areas of specialization. (See Program of Study under the Ph.D. program.)

It is the student's responsibility to ensure all requirements of the Program of Studies have been completed, registration is current, outstanding fees are paid, and University deadlines are met for convocation.

Graduate students are required to maintain continuous registration in certain courses until their program is complete. There are three terms for all graduate students:

Term 1: Regular Session (September - December)
Term 2: Regular Session (January - April)
Term 3: Spring/Summer Session (May - August)

CMPT 994.0 Thesis: In order to maintain your status as a full time student, you must register in this course in each and every term (Term 1, 2, and 3) until you complete your program.
CMPT 990.0 Seminar:

You must register in this course during every Term 1 and Term 2 (regular session terms) until you receive credit for the course. This course is not offered in Term 3 and (spring/summer) and registration for Term 3 is not required.

Sections of the CGPS policies manual that are most relevant to current graduate students are summarized and paraphrased below. The CGPS Policies and Procedures manual remains the authoritative document for these rules and regulations.

1. Advisory Committees (CGPS Policies Manual)  As soon as possible following a student's first registration in his or her program, an Advisory Committee, including research supervisor, should be named. It is the responsibility of the Advisory Committee to assist in course selection and definition of research area, provide support and advice, regularly evaluate the student's progress by meeting at least once yearly, to take appropriate and timely action in view of this progress, and to keep records of this evaluation and all actions taken.  
An M.Sc. advisory committee must consist of:

  • the graduate chair or designate, as advisory committee chair;
  • the supervisor(s); and
  • at least one additional member.
2. Program of Studies (CGPS Policies Manual) Within the first year of a student's registration in a graduate degree program, the Advisory Committee is charged with the responsibility of developing an individualized program of studies on behalf of the student. Successful completion of the noted courses and other requirements, passing required examinations and defence of the thesis will result in the conferring of the M.Sc. degree.
3. Permission to Submit Thesis for Defence (CGPS Policies Manual) It is expected the student will follow the advice of the Supervisor and the Advisory Committee in establishing when the thesis is ready for examination. A meeting of the advisory committee must take place in order to approve the thesis for defence.
4. Student-Supervisor Agreement It is important to review this agreement with your supervisor to set clear expectations of your time in the program.

In compliance with CGPS policy, the Graduate Committee meets annually to review the status of every graduate student registered in Computer Science. Prior to this meeting, a report is prepared by each graduate student's supervisor outlining the progress of that student towards his or her degree. This information, along with other indicators of the student's performance (i.e. marks in courses, steps taken en route to thesis completion, etc.), is examined and a decision is made on whether or not that student is making acceptable progress in the graduate program. If a student so chooses, he or she may write a short document outlining concerns he or she may have, and this will be added to the information used by the Committee. This document will be kept confidential, even from someone on the Committee, should the student desire.

This checkpoint should be taken very seriously by both students and faculty members, and every effort should be expended by students to complete courses, and by faculty members to get all marking done, before this meeting so that the student's record is as complete as possible.

Pre-defence Meeting

Before a thesis may be scheduled for defence, your advisory committee must have a meeting to approve your thesis for defence. For M.Sc. degrees, an email vote is sufficient. A thesis may not be released to the external examiner until the advisory committee approves the thesis for defence.

Appointment of the External Examiner

As part of your pre-defence meeting, your advisory committee must determine the name of a potential external examiner. For M.Sc. degrees, the external examiner must be from another department within the university.  

The external examiner must have an "arm's length" relationship with the student, supervisor and members of the advisory committee. For detailed information on selection of external examiners, and selection criteria for external examiners, see the CGPS policies manual. Upon receipt of the suggestion for the external examiner the graduate program assistant will forward the name to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (CGPS) for approval.

*The student must not send a copy of the thesis to the external examiner.  This is handled by the supervisor or graduate program assistant.

Scheduling the Oral Examination (Thesis Defence)

Once the external examiner has been approved, the thesis defence can be scheduled. The graduate program assistant or student's supervisor will schedule a date and time at which all examiners are available. Students must not contact the external examiner. Sufficient time must be allowed so that the graduate program assistant can send the paperwork to CGSR at least 3 weeks before the desired defence date. For full details, see the CGPS policies manual.

The Writing Process and Thesis Structure

The production of a thesis is the culmination of any graduate program. The research embodied in the thesis and the actual writing of the document are essential elements of graduate training. Long after course work and term papers are forgotten, the thesis endures as a lasting record of a graduate student's accomplishment. With that in mind, we offer some suggestions on how to approach this challenging task.

The proper presentation of thesis work is very important. The key to good presentation is organization and clarity. Just as a properly organized computer program is the result of applying a methodology during program development, a properly organized thesis is the result of applying a methodology when developing the thesis. A top-down approach using iterative refinement is as applicable to the writing of a thesis (or a paper) as it is to the design of computer systems. A preliminary outline is expanded to a detailed outline, and then to initial drafts of each of the subsections.

Each chapter, section, and subsection should have an introduction (stating the content and purpose), a body, and a conclusion (summarizing the important points presented and possibly establishing a lead-in to the next unit). It is wise to review each thesis chapter, possibly with your thesis supervisor, at each level of refinement. The end product of such a process is almost always more understandable than starting at page one and writing until a final page becomes necessary.

Writing Style

Clarity is very important in scientific writing. Although clarity cannot be equated to simplicity, there is certainly a high degree of correlation. Since the material you are presenting is of a highly technical nature and is difficult enough to understand, the use of highly complex sentence structures will add little to the comprehensibility of a paper or a thesis. Unless you are particularly adept with prose, simple straightforward sentence structures are recommended. A number of commonly accepted rules for good writing style should be followed (for example, always write in the present tense and avoid writing in the first or second person). Most students would benefit from reading some books on the subject of writing style available in the library or bookstore (for example, A Manual for Writers by Kate L. Turabian or The Elements of Style by W. Strunk and E. B. White). A Handbook for Scholars by Mary-Claire van Leunen is recommended as an excellent guide to the technical issues of form. Another useful publication is the Chicago Manual of Style from the University of Chicago.


The format of a thesis is also important, and it is the student's responsibility to ensure that the correct format is followed. In particular, attention should be given to matters such as title page, table of contents, abstract, list of figures, list of tables, footnotes, quotations, figure captions, table captions, references and citations, and appendices. Each department maintains certain conventions within the guidelines set out by the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (see the guidelines for thesis preparation, available on-line at the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies web site). It is suggested that previous theses from the Department be examined for guidance. While the use of the computer-based text-processing facilities is encouraged for thesis preparation, the use of such facilities do not provide license for you to depart from acceptable standards--especially with respect to the production and placement of figures and tables, headings, margin size, or the size of print.


These document templates will assist in the production of a thesis document that corresponds to CGPS rules for thesis formatting.

The thesis defence is an oral examination, open to all interested members of the department. Your examining committee will consist of your advisory committee plus an external examiner, and any other members of the faculty that are considered necessary.  A thesis defence follows the following general format, but may deviate at the discretion of the chair of the examining committee.


You will begin the thesis defence with a short, 10-20 minute presentation that summarizes the major contributions of the thesis.


Beginning with the external examiner, each of your examiners will be given the opportunity to ask you questions. These questions may be very general in nature, testing the breadth of your knowledge, or may be very specific in nature, testing the depth of your knowledge. After each examiner has had their turn, additional rounds of questions may be conducted as needed, as determined by the examining committee chair.


At the conclusion of the examination, you will be asked to leave the room while the examining committee discusses your oral examination and your written thesis, and decides upon an outcome. Upon conclusion of these deliberations, you will be called back into the room and informed of the results. 

After the Defence

If your thesis is accepted, you will need to make any corrections/revisions that your examining committee deems necessary. You will be required to submit an electronic copy of the final, corrected, and revised copy of your thesis to the ETD site of the University of Saskatchewan. You are also asked to submit a bound copy to be kept in the Department of Computer Science. In addition, it is customary to offer bound copies to each member of your examining committee.

Finally, you will need to complete an online application to graduate. This is the student's responsibility.